IRONCLADS & DARK SWIMMERS
LAST PRESENTED ON MAY 18, 2012 --
Our VENUE is the
Hillsborough River at night during a waning moon and a full tide.
RIVER has its origin in dense swamps north of Tampa, Florida. It
winds its way slowly through the center of the city, passing river
homes – with DOCKS and BOATS old and ruinously new – through the
shipbuilding PORT OF TAMPA, then under the BAY BRIDGES to the
heaving GULF OF MEXICO.
TWO VESSELS armed with SCREENS and video projectors, a sophisticated
sound system, plus generators, smoke machines, and soundless
electrical propellers for the downstream voyage and powerful
outboard motors for the upstream journey.
are twenty-five and fifty feet long, and clad in REFLECTIVE SHEET
METAL. Their forms imitate the famous civil war gunboats the MONITOR
and the MERRIMACK, which struggled to a shattered draw at Hampton
Roads in 1863. Their shutter operated gun ports house video
projectors on carriages so they can be aimed, and their flanks have
built in flat screen television displays.
In a carefully
coordinated dance, the two vessels project images onto each other,
and toward the shore and structures they pass, and also onto the
sails of the FLOTILLA of small boats accompanying the vessels. This
silent fleet of canoes, kayaks and fishing skiffs is piloted by
experienced river people using paddles, oars and SILENT electric
“trolling” motors. The SAILS are hand made of nylon, highly
reflective of light yet translucent so that an image projected on
them may be read from both sides. The fabric is so porous that it
offers almost no resistance to wind, making navigation simple and
We begin at
dusk in the pools below the dam at 40th Street, and parade slowly
more than seven miles down river, stopping at Hannah’s Whirl, at the
Hillsborough Avenue bridge and the Sulphur Springs pool, the Water
Tower park, and the Channel District with its shops and theaters, to
the mouth of the river and the Gulf of Mexico.
Around 11 pm we
will do the final performance of the night within sight of the Port
of Tampa, before berthing to allow inspection of the vessels and
socialization with the artists and crew.
The next evening
we will reverse the process, offering a different performance of
IRONCLADS and DARK SWIMMERS at each stopping point as we power up
the river. We will repeat this cycle, once a week, for three weeks.
To accomplish this we will work with a crew of artists who have been
involved in this project for more than a decade, on vessels purpose
built, tested and modified, to an audience who have learned to
expect us, and celebrate us.
foster an evergreen love of the people of Tampa Bay – and their
guests and strangers – for the beautiful HILLSBOROUGH RIVER.
Tampa had its
beginning as a port city, and the Hillsborough River was its vital
life line to the sea. It offered swifter and simpler transport than
the sandy roads, so it was natural for the town to grow to a city
along the river. The docks, homes businesses and boats which make
the River journey to the Gulf fascinating, are the natural result of
Then came the
railroads and later the automobile, and the passionate, sometimes
thoughtless, industrial growth which has driven cities, and even
countries, for the last 150 years. Tampa’s river fared only a
little better than Chicago’s rivers, or Providence’s river, or that
of Cleveland. At best they were all badly cared for and
unregulated. At worst they became polluted, rubbish choked fire
traps. Providence actually covered its river over and forgot about
of work at raising consciousness of what we lose when we destroy our
rivers and their wetlands – and the oceans they flow into – have
begun to reverse this process. The Chicago River, for example, is
now an ornament to the city, and a destination for tourists. In
Providence they have uncovered their beautiful river, and celebrate
it with frequent night time Son et Lumiere (Sound and Light)
We seek this
same heightened consciousness of our river, but while the tide is
currently flowing in our direction, it is also true that our times
are very critical, and that decisions we make now will irretrievable
effect our descendants, forever.
Rivers can and
do link the people who live on them and use them. Companionship of
river lovers is a pleasant one, and lasting. Our performances draw
people outside to the river, in an event passed slowly, like a
solemn gift, from dock to dock and neighborhood.
foster increased understanding of the history of the Hillsborough
River, from way back then … until now.
3. To make
visible that mysterious and seldom seen beauty that flows beneath
the surface of our river; to project it above and beyond the water
itself onto the river’s banks at night and onto the sails and hulls
of its watercraft.
present a classical-like tragedy – acted-out on the river –
exploring the use and misuse of boats in times of war: The battle of
the Monitor and the Merrimack as forerunners of the Cold War one
hundred years after the Civil War.